'There's no harm in earning a cheque or two off-farm'


Denis Vaughan on his farm in Cork.
Denis Vaughan on his farm in Cork.

Ken Whelan

Cows and concrete are the twin enterprises being pursued by Co Cork farmer Denis Vaughan, and both are thriving due to the upturn in the economy in general and the solidity of dairy prices in particular.

Before the 33-year-old returned to run the family's farm in Boherbue a few years ago Denis had been " let go" by a local construction company following the collapse in the economy.

Denis runs a herd of 86 Friesians on 90 acres with a further 30-acre out-farm nearby, which he describes as "heavy ground not made any better by the weather we have had this year".

The Vaughans supply milk to the Boherbue co-op and also rear a similar amount of bull weanlings as well as heifers. At all times, Denis is advised on farm matters by his father Denis Snr.

Recently he noticed a growing need among local dairy farmers to update what he describes as the "concrete" on their farms, and not letting a good education in the construction sector go to waste, he set up his own company to deal with this demand a few months ago.

The company updates sheds, milking parlours, slurry pits and yards.

"Farmers don't want to be up to their knees in the farm waste created by this new expansion, and the work is local and it suits me," Denis explains.

The way he sees it, with milk prices forever going up and down, there is no harm in earning "another cheque or two" off-farm by doing something he knows well.

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"Farmers are great to spend money when they have it and they always spend it locally. They don't hoard their money - if they did, the taxman would probably take it," Denis adds

He is a firm believer in enterprise and says it is needed to make many farms viable.

"I believe that most farmers need a job outside the gates to make things work and that's why I set up the new company.

"So far things have been tipping along nicely but I won't really know how well until I have been a year at it," he says.

These days, Denis is flat out, what with doing the morning milking before 8.30am every morning, then bringing his young children to school and, on a construction day, he and his colleague Thomas Murphy - a fellow farmer from nearby Rockchapel - head off for the concrete and shuttering work and then back home for the evening milking.

"We don't work every day so we can manage it," he says.

Denis is married to Katie, a nurse, and they have three young children -Ella (10) Jack (just gone nine) and Erin (five).

Denis is happy with the current milk price his herd is fetching, but don't mention the milk cheques of 2012 or last year to him unless you want to give him the wobbles - the words "utter" and "disaster" won't be far from his lips.

"The milk price is great at the moment.

It is very fair but they are only making up for the recent bad years of prices. They will have to do something about the volatility in milk prices," he stresses.

Off-farm, his main interests are in the sporting endeavours of his children and "doing a bit of messing with the soldering and metal making equipment" in his shed on the farm.

"I like to make things but most of the time what I make is pure nonsense," he grins.

Indo Farming

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